Machiavelli Essay Thesis

Many liberals came to regard Strauss as anathema, while some conservatives found his rediscovery of "the diabolical Florentine" intriguing, yet too dangerous to be embraced without reservation because of Machiavelli's acceptance of tyranny as sometimes expedient.Soon, rival scholars began to challenge Strauss -- whether because they considered Machiavelli unfit for polite discussion, or because they regarded his work as a sideshow.

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In one of the most bruising clashes to appear in an academic journal (in this case, Political Theory, in the early 1970's) Professor Mansfield, a Straussian political scientist, said that traditionalists who could not accept Strauss's notion that Machiavelli was the "harbinger of modernity" were unfairly giving Strauss "the silent treatment."Professor Pocock, a leading specialists in Hobbes, responded by asserting that the Straussians were becoming paranoid, stooping to such tactics as filling departmental vacancies only with true believers and refusing to attend classes taught by non-Straussians.

Amid some less-than-lighthearted talk of "plunging bayonets" into each other, Professor Mansfield counterattacked by denouncing Professor Pocock for "misrepresentations, insults and name calling."In 1972, Professor Saxonhouse, a Straussian, was an untenured assistant professor at the University of Michigan when she wandered into the crossfire.

The attribution to Hobbes of a collection of three essays published anonymously early in his career -- currently reissued under Hobbes's name by the University of Chicago Press -- is chiefly due to decades of perseverance by one of the editors, Arlene W.

Saxonhouse, a professor of political science at the University of Michigan.

Professor Reynolds ran the three essays through a computer and found them to be "statistically indistinguishable from uncontested Hobbes texts."As a result, the University of Chicago Press jumped at the opportunity to publish "Three Discourses: A Critical Modern Edition of Newly Identified Work of the Young Hobbes," edited by Professors Reynolds and Saxonhouse.

Both leaders of their generations, Martin Luther and Niccolo Machiavelli were also religious and political icons.One returned the manuscript saying it was too controversial to be published by someone not "a scholar of overriding distinction."Resigned, Professor Saxonhouse shelved it until 1988, when she met Noel B.Reynolds, a professor of political science at Brigham Young University who specializes in a computer technique for determining authorship based on identification of idiosyncratic patterns of word usage.A longtime student of Hobbes, Professor Saxonhouse said that the essays showed that the first Western thinker to conceive of the state as a human rather than a divine construction was not Hobbes, as many scholars have long held, but Niccolo Machiavelli, the bad boy of political theory whose writings preceded Hobbes's by about a century.Indeed, Professor Saxonhouse said, the essays reveal how profoundly Hobbes (1588-1679) was influenced by Machiavelli (1469-1527).Machiavelli lived earlier and had no encounter with the problem of civil authority in a time of religious war."What difference does it make who was the first modern political philosopher?"To understand today's society, you have to go back to its beginnings," Professor Saxonhouse said.Both men were determined to break up the monopoly of knowledge and power that the Catholic Church held over the people.Through examination of Machiavelli's The Prince, and Martin Luther's Christian Liberty, their different views on the individual, God, and the state will be compared and contrasted to better understand their issues with the Catholic Church."And what you learn from Machiavelli is that social order is not something natural, not handed down.It's something we have to create."Professor Harvey Mansfield, a political scientist at Harvard, said: "If Machiavelli came first, then it suggests that an occasional act of tyranny might be necessary to save freedom."But Professor Pocock said simply that the issue of who was first was "meaningless." He explained, "The word 'modern' can, and does, have too many meanings to make a single question like that worth asking."The debate over the birth of modern political thought -- one of the classics in scholarly feuding -- dates to 1952.


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